What's "Wrong" With User Friendly

Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by HeDied4U, Aug 19, 2003.

  1. HeDied4U

    HeDied4U
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    **Taken from Crosswalk.com's "Live It" feature for 8-19-2003...

    -------------------

    Live It!
    Today's best advice for practical Christian living

    What's Wrong with "User Friendly"?
    John MacArthur

    Recently, the 11th edition of the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate
    Dictionary was published. The reprint included 10,000 new words- words
    that will bring us all up to date. Words like "phat" (excellent), "dead
    presidents" (paper currency), and "McJob" (low paying, dead-end job) are
    among the entries that will finally help us communicate with our
    teenagers.

    How did those words make it into the updated dictionary? There is one
    criterion: usage. A word qualifies for the new edition based on how
    widespread its usage has become. While I can't imagine how phat, McJob,
    and dead presidents will find a place in America's pulpits (e.g., The
    love of dead presidents is the root of all kinds of evil?), there is one
    phrase borrowed from the computer industry that has spread into
    mainstream usage in the church- it's impact has been monumental.

    "User-friendly" was first used to describe software and hardware that is
    easy for the novice to operate. Applied to the church, it describes
    churches that offer a decidedly benign and non-challenging ministry
    model. In practice, it has become an excuse for importing worldly
    amusements into the church in an attempt to attract non-Christian
    "seekers" or the "unchurched" by appealing to their fleshly interests.
    The obvious fallout of this preoccupation with the unbelievers is a
    corresponding neglect of true believers and their spiritual needs.


    If you want to know how user-friendly a church has become, the emphasis,
    or de-emphasis, on biblical preaching is the yardstick. A church that
    buys into the new paradigm sidelines provocative and convicting sermons
    for music, skits, or videos- less confrontational mediums for conveying
    the message. Even when there is a sermon, it is frequently psychological
    and motivational rather than biblical. Above all, entertainment value
    and user-friendliness are paramount.

    I once read through a stack of newspaper and magazine articles that
    highlight a common thread in the user-friendly phenomenon. These
    observations from newspaper clippings describe the preaching in
    user-friendly churches:


    1. "There is no fire and brimstone here... Just practical, witty
    messages."

    2. "Services at [the church featured in the article] have an informal
    feeling. You won't hear people threatened with hell or referred to as
    sinners. The goal is to make them feel welcome, not drive them away."

    3. "As with all clergymen [this pastor's] answer is God- but he slips
    Him in at the end, and even then doesn't get heavy. No ranting, no
    raving. No fire, no brimstone. He doesn't even use the H-word. Call it
    Light Gospel. It has the same salvation as the Old Time Religion, but
    with a third less guilt."

    4. "The sermons are relevant, upbeat, and best of all, short. You won't
    hear a lot of preaching about sin and damnation, and hell fire.
    Preaching here doesn't sound like preaching. It is sophisticated,
    urbane, and friendly talk. It breaks all the stereotypes."

    5. "[The pastor] is preaching a very upbeat message... It's a
    salvationist message, but the idea is not so much being saved from the
    fires of hell. Rather, it's being saved from meaninglessness and
    aimlessness in this life. It's more of a soft-sell."


    So the new rules may be summed like this: Be clever, informal, positive,
    brief, friendly, and never, never use the H-word.

    The pastors and leaders in the church-growth movement certainly wouldn't
    portray their own ministries in that way. In fact, they would probably
    laud their success in drawing people into the church without
    compromising the message. But they fail to understand that by
    decentralizing the Scripture and avoiding hard truths, they are
    compromising. "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will
    the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory, and the glory of
    the Father and of the holy angels" (Luke 9:26, emphasis added). If the
    design is to make the seeker comfortable, isn't that rather incompatible
    with the Bible's own emphasis on sin, judgment, hell, and several other
    important topics?

    The gospel message is a confrontational message. When you remove the
    confrontation-or soften, downplay, or bring it in through the back door-
    you have compromised the message. The modern pulpit is weak, not for a
    lack of witty messages, but because men fear to speak the hard truths of
    God's Word powerfully and with conviction.

    The church is certainly not suffering from an overabundance of
    forthright preachers; rather, it seems glutted with men pleasers (cf.
    Gal. 1:10). But, as it was in the early church, when men are faithful to
    preach God's Word with boldness, God will give the increase. "And they
    were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching... then
    fear came upon every soul... and the Lord added to the church daily
    those who were being saved" (Acts 2:42, 43, 47).

    When a sinner wanders into the church and sits through skits, mimes,
    interpretive dances, and the like, and yet never hears a clear,
    convicting message about his dangerous and tenuous spiritual situation-
    that he is a depraved sinner headed for an eternal fire because he is a
    daily offense to a holy God- how can that be called successful? You
    could achieve the same level of success by sending a cancer patient to
    receive treatment from a group of children playing doctor. A sinner must
    understand the imminent danger he is in if he is ever to look to the
    Savior.

    C. H. Spurgeon, facing a similar mindset in his day, once said:

    'I fear there are some who preach with the view of amusing men, and as
    long as people can be gathered in crowds, and their ears can be tickled,
    and they can retire pleased with what they have heard, the orator is
    content, and folds his hands, and goes back self-satisfied. But Paul did
    not lay himself out to please the public and collect the crowd. If he
    did not save them he felt that it was of no avail to interest them.
    Unless the truth had pierced their hearts, affected their lives, and
    made new men of them, Paul would have gone home crying, "Who hath
    believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?"...

    Now observe, brethren, if I, or you, or any of us, or all of us, shall
    have spent our lives merely in amusing men, or educating men, or
    moralizing men, when we shall come to give our account at the last great
    day we shall be in a very sorry condition, and we shall have but a very
    sorry record to render; for of what avail will it be to a man to be
    educated when he comes to be damned? Of what service will it be to him
    to have been amused when the trumpet sounds, and heaven and earth are
    shaking, and the pit opens wide her jaws of fire and swallows up the
    soul unsaved? Of what avail even to have moralized a man if still he is
    on the left hand of the judge, and if still, "Depart, ye cursed," shall
    be his portion?'" ["Soul Saving Our One Business," The Metropolitan
    Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 25 (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1879),
    674-76.]

    That is precisely my concern about today's pragmatic church-growth
    trend. The strategy focuses on attracting and keeping the unchurched.
    For what? To entertain them? To get them to attend church meetings
    regularly? Merely "churching" the unchurched accomplishes nothing of
    eternal value. That is where their strategy seems to end.

    What's worse is when seeker-focused churches baptize the masses with
    their watered-down gospel, assuring them that positive decisions,
    feelings, or affirmations about Christ equal genuine conversion. There
    are now multitudes who are not authentic Christians identifying with the
    church. The church is literally invaded with the world's values, the
    world's interests, and the world's citizens. It isn't an invasion
    prompted by overt hostility; people are simply responding to a survey
    that came in the mail. Ironically, Satan isn't sowing the tares; church
    leaders are.

    As you set your strategy for church ministry, you dare not overlook the
    primary means of church growth: the straightforward, Christ-centered
    proclamation of the unadulterated Word of God. If you trade the Word for
    amusements or gimmicks, you will not only find that you have no
    effective means to reach people with the truth of Christ, but you will
    find yourself working against the Lord Himself.

    Adapted from Ashamed of the Gospel: When the Church Becomes Like the
    World
    © 1993 by John MacArthur.
    All rights reserved.

    --------------------------

    I'd say that John MacArthur is right on. What do you think??

    God Bless!!!

    Adam [​IMG]
     
  2. All about Grace

    All about Grace
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    MacArthur made this statement almost 10 years ago. His predictive words have not actualized. As he often does, he attacks a straw man.
     
  3. ScottEmerson

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    The world has changed. Thirty years ago, most people understood where Christians stood and they knew that they believed in the death and resurrection of Christ. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the moment in which they were ready to accept Christ, the average American was at a 7 or 8. We were more or less a "Christian" culture.

    Today, things have radically changed. People generally have a positive view about Christ, but a negative view about Christians. To them, Christianity stands for hypocricy and the image of priests abusing children is fresh in their minds. Don't believe me? Go to the mall and ask 20 30-somthings or younger about their feelings about Christ, and then their feelings about Christianity (we did this with our students this summer.) They'll echo the same thing. On a scale of 1-10, the average person is a 3.

    I've been to several "user-friendly" churches. Visitors are welcomed in a way that I just do not see in other churches. IN some of these churches, members park the car of the visitors. In these churches, a member walks a person down to their seat, introducing himself or herself and giving them information about other activities going on during the week. During the service, members are encouraged to welcome the visitors. All of this leads up to the message, and the hope is by that time, the visitor is comfortable enough to really listen to the message.

    The sermons of these churches are very applicable to daily life. However, these applications are predicated on God's Word. The sacrifice that was made for them by Jesus Christ is alwayss mentioned - I've never been in a user-friendly church where this was not the case. Hell is often mentioned, although it is in no way presented the way that "fire and brimstone" preachers do it. Their goal is not to scare anyone to salvation, but to show them the power of the cross, as well as the power of the church community.

    "User-friendly" churches are getting the Acts 2 church right. So many of our Baptist churches are no more than social clubs, who are not spending any time at all reaching out to a lost and dying world. Personally, I'd rather be part of a church that is accessible to non-believers than to be in a church that is so pleased with their salvation that they keep it to themselves, either by not sharing their faith or by keeping churc service inaccessible.
     
  4. Brett

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    Amen, Scott. That was the best post I've seen in awhile.
     
  5. Kent Witcher

    Kent Witcher
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    The FEAR of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.
     
  6. Gunther

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    Seeing how unbelievers cannot worship God, it is futile and the product of a foolish mind to think that church is for the lost.

    Evangelism is for the lost.

    The church is for edification of believers.

    Both are for exaltation of Christ.

    MacArthur hit the mark on this one and it has certainly proven true. Once you factor in the onslaught of "purpose-driven" churches and the like, the clear thinker understands the issue and can see through the smog.
     
  7. Kiffin

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    "Worship" services in many SBC churches are more entertainment oriented than ever before. Churches are built like movie theators and no longer is where we worship a sancturay but is now a auditorium.

    In many ways Music has become the new transubstatiation for baby boomers. I think MacArthur hit the mark.
     
  8. Pastor Larry

    Pastor Larry
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    What churches are you looking at?? Every single one of his comments can be substantiated in a look at many churches across the spectrum today.
     
  9. All about Grace

    All about Grace
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    You can rest assured I have examined far more contemporary churches than 99.9% of this board. Perhaps the better question is: what churches have you looked at? Give us some examples of churches that fit MacArthur's dated stereotype and then we can begin a legitimate discussion.
     
  10. Wisdom Seeker

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    The only problem I had with the above quoted post is that "PHAT" doesn't mean excellent. It's an acrostic.

    The letters stand for:

    Pretty
    Hot
    And
    Tempting

    Maybe this was the authors attempt at showing that he is not as worldy as the subject in which he is speaking.
     
  11. All about Grace

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    Classic example of assuming a seeker-sensitive church believes "church is for the lost." I know of no one that argues church is strictly for evangelism. If you can show us an example of what you suggest, we can talk about it from that point. I will not hold my breath.

    Which is part of the church's responsibility. Remember the church is made up of individuals.

    Also part of the church's responsibility. Will you please point me to that text that says the church service is designed exclusively for discipleship?

    No one argues otherwise.


    To be so clear in your thinking, you certainly have attacked some blatant straw men. :rolleyes:
     
  12. All about Grace

    All about Grace
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    Since your words reflect mere opinion, we will take them as such. Opinion noted.
     
  13. Molly

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    That article from John Mac is very good! I agree! :D I agree with Gunther's remarks,as well. I have these same concerns with the user seeker friendly movement.

    Scott,It is not NT at all,it is worldy growth techniques.

    Molly
     
  14. Pastor Larry

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    Much of the willow creek association; many churches associated with the PDC movement (which in and of itself is good if they were consistent); many of those who have aligned themselves after the Barna philosophy. It is pretty obvious to all but the most jaded. Most people freely admit it and have no problem with it.

    There was a recent book about Willow Creek by a guy who attended there over a number of years. I think his name was Pritchett but I can't be sure. He did a kind of concordance on the preaching there and found exactly what MacArthur said.

    This is not new stuff. To answer the original question, there is nothing wrong with being user friendly in many cases.
     
  15. donnA

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    A sanctuary is where God lives, which is in us, we are the sanctuary. A building is not a place where God lives. Otherwise we could only worship in that building. And unless your there to see, you hve no idea if the poeple in it are worshiping or not. Or prephaps even if you were there you'd have no idea whats in a persons heart.
     
  16. Dr. Bob

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    One does a disservice by linking "Seeker Sensitive" (ala Willow Creek) with "Purpose Driven".

    Two different types of approach, imho. I am far closer to the model of Warren than to Hybels.
     
  17. rlvaughn

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    Amen, Gunther. That was the best post I've seen in awhile.
     
  18. All about Grace

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    We are speaking on two different planes. My contention with MacArthur's words concerns his overstatement of "watering down the gospel for the sake of baptizing masses, etc."

    I am not suggesting there are not different paradigms for doing ministry, proclamation, evangelism, and discipleship. What I am saying is that MacArthur, based upon his own preference, sets fire to a straw man to build his case. For instance, he states
    These words just do not reflect reality. If anything, the contemporary church model often has higher demands for those who profess Christ and seek membership in a local church.

    I have studied extensively the WC, PDC, Barna, etc. models. Do they have their weaknesses? Obviously. Are they as a whole distorting the gospel? Absolutely not. If you want to provide some specific examples of how the gospel has been tainted, I am willing to discuss them. Until then, I am going to rely upon my first-hand knowledge and not someone else's unsubstantiated opinion.

    Just for the record, I love MacArthur's works. I have almost 50 of them. I am not condemning MacArthur. I am simply saying he often argues on this matter against straw men. Even his most recent lectures on this subject reflect arguments against an illusion or an extreme and not the mainline contemporary paradigm.
     
  19. Kiffin

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    It is not just mere opinion. The Contemporay churches like most of the rest of SBC churches can anot account for over half those they baptize.

    I am not so much sure it is Willow Creek or Saddleback influence or if more Charismatic or Vineyard influence. In fairness to Willow Creek, their Sunday service is a outreach while their Thursday night service is more traditional and worship as they will admit. I have problems even with that but that would get us in another discussion.

    Even Dr. Robert Webber of Worship Leader Magazine has been critical of this style though not condemning it but urging a more convergence of Contemporay and Traditional. It should be noted that SBC worship has been human centered for years with it's almost sacramental focus on the Finneyite Altar Call. Music has become synomous with Worship and has led to entertainment emphasis.


    Rick Warren has at least been at the forefront of abandoning that instrument though his hiding the name Baptist from his church sign and I think Warren is a good man but I think the seeker friendly model is a transition type of worship that will ultimately or hopefully lead to something deeper. Both the Finneyite style (that we often call traditional) and the Contemporay style are lacking something.
     
  20. Gunther

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    That would be biblical support and the favor of God.

    Btw, I am not against contemporary for the sake of contemporary (modern). However, we all know what the connotation of that word really is, so there is no reason to play with words.

    Also, the altar call is pathetic and usually reserved for the arminian / misguided theologian. In all my years of SBC life, this is one of the most troubling.
     

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